Have Lyme, Will Travel….Maybe



My Lyme adventure creates new experiences for me every day. As a teacher, I have learned that your own reactions, coupled with lesson planning, directly impact how your students will respond. With my Lyme, the same edit holds true, only that it applies to food. The food I eat impacts how I feel, and what I consume or do each day can cause pain, fatigue, or a semblance of normalcy. I say a semblance only because when you have Lyme, normal for you isn’t the same normal as everyone else.

I am slowly starting to get the whole process of eating to be of a comfort to me and not a painful encounter. The problem is that I am still unclear as to knowing what foods will help or hurt me. But is it very evident that there are no more quick trips to McDonald’s for me anymore. And if I want to eat at a restaurant, it requires first checking the menu before sitting at the table.

Recently one night, we were out, and we hadn’t had dinner yet, so we decided to stop at Bertucci’s for dinner. Now, I have learned that tomatoes and cheese are two of the most toxic foods for me right now, but I can have salads, so I scanned the menu. Chicken Caesar salad seemed to be the best choice: chicken has the protein I needed, and the dressing has cheese, which I knew will bother me, but I thought the chicken could off set some of that pain. I also thought that the amount of chicken in the salad would be enough to satisfy me, but I quickly found out that I was wrong.

My body chemistry is such now that I need a lot of protein—like up to 8 oz. or more a meal–to keep my hunger at bay and my stamina flowing. That salad wasn’t even an appetizer for me! So I had to make another whole meal for myself when I got home because I was starving. This little night out was eye-opening and stomach sealing because now it confirmed for me what it is like to be at the mercy of a food allergy or Lyme or any illness that compromises eating. And I wasn’t happy about it.

We just recently got back from a weeklong trip. Again, I checked the menus before we left just to be sure that I’d have something to eat. It seemed  I’d be eating lots of chicken. I reasoned that in and of itself would be ok, but after the Bertucci’s experience, I wasn’t anticipating being full, and that’s for sure! I measured out and packed Ziplock bags of peanuts to keep with me during the day; even though they bother me, I was willing to risk the muscle pain to keep my stamina up a little bit during all the walking that we would be doing on our trip.

Breakfast was tough; I could only eat scrambled eggs and bacon each morning since everything else available was carb and sugar laden: different pastries and muffins, potatoes, croissants, cereal, fruit, pancakes and waffles.  There was sausage available, but after day 1, I knew I’d be bypassing that…it was gross.

For most of our lunches and dinners, I was able to eat steak, which was a welcome surprise. The portions were decent, so I wasn’t too hungry afterwards, and I was able to keep up the pace of the trip for the most part.

At one restaurant, however, the only meal that I could eat on the menu was a hamburger w/ Pepper Jack cheese. (I had endured a bad reaction to green bell peppers prior to the trip, so I kept Benadryl in my bag in anticipation of situations like this!) Of course, I felt the stinging in my arm muscles after eating that, but my choices were between being hungry and lethargic or have stinging pain…I chose the pain.

On our last day, we stopped at an Italian themed restaurant. The atmosphere was lovely and reminded me greatly of a trip to Italy we had taken three years ago, but I knew I was doomed when it came to eating. The menu, of course, was dripping with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. I picked a meatball dish, again trying to reason that the protein in it would help with the stinging that I knew I was going to feel within a half an hour of eating.

But the meatballs weren’t the big ones you saw in the Lady and the Tramp dinner at Tony’s; they were five little ones that are the size of the frozen bagged variety from the grocery store. Not good.

At that point, I just threw in my fork and ate everything. What was the difference? If I was going to be in pain, might as well at least eat some foods that I hadn’t eaten in months. So I ate a caprese salad (the tomatoes weren’t  really ripe, but he mozzarella cheese was pretty good), a bite of a bread stick, and lemon cheesecake for dessert. I was like a stingray after all that, but it was the last day, and I had done pretty well with eating considering that I was at the mercy of a restaurant for every meal for six days.

For anyone suffering from food allergies, I feel your pain, both literally and figuratively. Each day is a guessing game at the dining table with Lyme as your companion. If I am home, I have more control over what I eat and how I feel. But if I have to go out to eat, it’s a crapshoot. And I’m not good at hitting the target. Maybe with a little more practice….

Yours in Lyme Adventures,